A massive winter storm blanketed the Mid-Atlantic region on Feb. 5 and 6, dumping more than 2 feet of snow on the Baltimore-Washington area.
Snow accumulated at an estimated rate of 2 inches per hour over Friday night into Saturday morning, bringing travel through most of the area to a near-standstill. The National Weather Service reports final totals from the storm are 40 inches in Colesville, Md., 24.8 inches at Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport, 32.4 inches at Dulles International Airport, 25 inches in College Park, Md., and 27.5 inches at American University in Washington, D.C.
With the record numbers accumulating during the storm, Maryland officials contemplated taking drastic measures, including banning all travel on area roads, but did not elect to do so.
“There’s always the option of closing down the roads all together,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley told The Washington Post on Feb. 6. “As a practical matter, that’s pretty hard to enforce because we have so many miles of border shared with other states, so unless they do it, too, it won’t work.”
The total snowfall not only shocked officials, but local residents were in awe as well.
“I thought [the meteorologists] were joking about the predicted amounts,” said Anthony Brown, 29. “I thought back to ‘96 and said this was double that. Schools are going to be closed for a while.”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority cut service for above-ground subway stations and Metrobus service on the night of Feb. 5 through at least the next day. The Maryland Transit Authority also suspended service for buses and light rail.
The storm also wreaked havoc on power companies, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of customers in the region.
Although the weather halted normal routines, local residents showed resiliency in many ways. Rev. E. Gail Anderson Holness, pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, held Sunday morning worship service over conference call since her congregation wouldn’t be able to make it to church.
The service began at 10 a.m. on Feb. 7 with over 100 callers from all over the country and some callers from the West Indies.
The storm was the first true test for new Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. In a press release on Feb. 8, she updated the public on the progress of the city’s snow removal.
As 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, over 71 percent of Baltimore’s secondary roads had been plowed and over 30 percent of those roads had been plowed two or more times. It was expected that more teams would be deployed to plow and assist with secondary streets.
“The recovery is underway,” said Rawlings-Blake. “Our snow team has diligently worked throughout the weekend and I am proud of their commitment to the people of Baltimore.”
In Prince George’s County, the government has had crews working in 12-hour shifts since 1 p.m. on Feb. 5. Susan D. Hubbard, public information officer for Prince George’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, said in a press release that the county is using every resource possible to clear the roadways.
“Due to the magnitude of this snow event, DPW&T staff has been joined by crews and inspectors from other county agencies, including the departments of Environmental Services and Central Services, as well as the Prince George's County Board of Education and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, bringing the total number of vehicles up to more than 300 vehicles per shift,” said Hubbard.
Perhaps the most controversial decision of the weekend was Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s initial decision to open school on Feb. 8. After the initial furor set off by the decision, Fenty about-faced and decided to close schools.
"All teachers must make an individual decision on whether or not to go to school on tomorrow-pending individual circumstances,” said George Parker, president of the Washington Teacher’s Union in a recorded message to its membership on Feb. 7. “However, when the mayor or chancellor makes a decision that shows a disregard for our safety as teachers, and the safety of our students, we must stand up and make the appropriate decision for ourselves.”
Washington, D.C. public schools remained closed on Feb. 9 as well.
What could complicate the removal process over is another storm which is expected to hit the Baltimore/Washington region this week. The NWS issued a winter storm warning effective from 12 p.m. on Feb. 9 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 with accumulations between 10-20 inches.